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Fried Green Tomatoes – #ScrumptiousSunday

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Add some homemade spicy-mayo and artificial bacon bits to your fried green tomatoes to kick it up a notch!

You say tomato, I say tomahto…we both say delicious!   This past #TastyThursday I mentioned our abundance of ripe and green tomatoes in our last harvest from the garden, and I said I would post some more delicious recipes using green tomatoes such as Green Tomato Bread recipe.  Today I give you Fried Green Tomatoes!

There’s a debate about where fried green tomatoes actually originated from.   Some say the South and others say the Midwest.  When my German/Russian family immigrated to the United States, the majority of them settled in the Midwestern states…Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.  I grew up on many delicious dishes such as Fried Green Tomatoes, each recipe carrying with it a long story of where/who it originated from.  Being that most American hadn’t even heard of the idea of battering such un-ripened fruit and frying it in a well seasoned cast iron skillet until the 1991 classic film, Fried Green Tomatoes, the Midwest theory really pans out.  I also did some in-depth online reading, and I hate to burst the bubble of some, but Fried Green Tomatoes are by no means a Southern dish…the accurate debate is whether they’re originally Midwestern or Northeastern!   But enough of about where they came from as we can all agree that they should be enjoyed by everyone!

For the Fried Green Tomatoes

  • 6 – 8 firm green tomatoes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups of almond or soy milk
  • 2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Slice green tomatoes to medium thickness and sprinkle lightly with salt, let stand for 5 minutes.

Prepare your dredging bowls:  In the first bowl, add almond or soy milk.  In a second bowl combine and mix all-purpose flour, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and black pepper.   In a third bowl, add bread crumbs.

Dredging Method

  1. Dip each green tomato slice in the almond or soy milk.
  2. Coat it in all-purpose flour mixture.
  3. Dip once again in the almond or soy milk.
  4. Coat in seasoned bread crumbs.
  5. Gently stack on a plate and set aside.

Heat oil in skillet on medium-high.  To test, drop a tiny piece of bread crumb in oil.  It should immediately crackle when ready.

With tongs gently place each dredged green tomato slice in hot oil.  Be sure not overcrowd.  Fry 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden and crispy.   When done, remove green tomatoes and gently place on a paper towel lined plate.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Spicy-Mayo Sauce

  • 3/4 cup Vegenaise®
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder

Whisk all ingredients together with a fork in a small bowl.  Drizzle over fried green tomatoes.  For some added flare, sprinkle with artificial bacon bits!

Live Well – Eat Well – Be Well

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Green Tomato Bread – #TastyThursday

A perfect and unique fall bread - great for brunch or a quick breakfast with coffee or tea.  These tasty loaves make great gifts for friends and neighbors too!

A perfect and unique fall bread – great for brunch or a quick breakfast with coffee or tea. These tasty loaves make great gifts for friends and neighbors too!

This year we’ve been kissed by the tomato Gods!   We’ve probably had over 250 ripened tomatoes from our garden and we just did our last harvest this week.   Given that fall is making itself known – we had over 3 dozen green tomatoes which needed clipped as the days are already too short (lack of sun) and the nighttime temperatures have noticeably cooled to temperatures that tomato plants are not fond of.

There’s no need to fret over an abundance of green tomatoes though!   Green tomatoes (which are not fully ripened) can be just a delicious as the bright red fruit, given that you know what to do with them.  So don’t worry about paper bagging your green tomatoes or God forbid, throwing them out…as I will dedicate the next few #TastyThursday and #ScrumptiousSunday posts to some of our favorite recipes using green tomatoes.  Today I give you: Green Tomato Bread!   This delicious bread has the familiarity of zucchini or banana bread, with the unique and tasty cut from the high acidity of green tomatoes.  Oh, and it’s easy!  Bon Appétit!

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup banana, purée
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped green tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the first 6 ingredients in large bowl.  Make a well in the center of mixture.

Combine the banana, oil, and vanilla; stir well.   Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Fold in the tomatoes and pecans.

Spoon the batter into 2 greased and floured 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.  Enjoy!

Live Well – Eat Well – Be Well

10 Fascinating Facts About Pigs

Who loves piggies?  I do!  Who doesn’t love piggies?  Not that I hold one animal greater (or more cute) than another, but pigs played an instrumental part in my conversion to a vegan lifestyle.  Pigs are often times mistaken as being dirty, mud loving animals – but they’re so much more than the common myths and misconceptions.  They’re incredibly smart, remarkably clean, and more like you and I than we realize!   Once you fall in love with pigs, there’s no turning back.   So I wanted to dedicate an entire special post solely to pigs: because they truly deserve it!  Here’s the Top Ten Fascinating Facts About Pigs written by the folks at PETA.  Oink!  Oink!

 

 

  1. Pigs snuggle close to one another and prefer to sleep nose to nose. They dream, much as humans do. In their natural surroundings, pigs spend hours playing, sunbathing, and exploring. People who run animal sanctuaries for farmed animals often report that pigs, like humans, enjoy listening to music, playing with soccer balls, and getting massages.
  2. Pigs communicate constantly with one another; more than 20 vocalizations have been identified that pigs use in different situations, from wooing mates to saying, “I’m hungry!”
  3. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mothers’ voices and to recognize their own names. Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing.
  4. According to Professor Donald Broom of the Cambridge University Veterinary School, “[Pigs] have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than human] 3-year-olds.”
  5. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction and have found their way home over great distances. Adult pigs can run at speeds of up to 11 miles an hour.
  6. Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University has found that pigs can play joystick-controlled video games and are “capable of abstract representation.” Dr. Curtis believes that “there is much more going on in terms of thinking and observing by these pigs than we would ever have guessed.”
  7. Pigs do not “eat like pigs” or “pig out.” They prefer to eat slowly and savor their food.
  8. Suzanne Held, who studies the cognitive abilities of farmed animals at the University of Bristol’s Centre of Behavioural Biology, says that pigs are “really good at remembering where food is located, because in their natural environment food is patchily distributed and it pays to revisit profitable food patches.”
  9. Pigs are clean animals. If given sufficient space, they will be careful not to soil the area where they sleep or eat. Pigs don’t “sweat like pigs”; they are actually unable to sweat. They like to bathe in water or mud to keep cool, and they actually prefer water to mud. One woman developed a shower for her pigs, and they learned to turn it on and off by themselves.
  10. In his book The Whole Hog, biologist and Johannesburg Zoo director Lyall Watson writes, “I know of no other animals [who] are more consistently curious, more willing to explore new experiences, more ready to meet the world with open mouthed enthusiasm. Pigs, I have discovered, are incurable optimists and get a big kick out of just being.”

Macaroni & “Cheese” – #ScrumptiousSunday

It has been so exciting to receive so much encouragement and feedback in such a short time since I launched The Vegan Bear!   My passion for the vegan lifestyle, the eagerness in learning to write decently as an amateur, and each and every one of you who follow me make this blog so much fun!  One of the most popular requests I’ve received since I started is for more recipes, so your wish is my command!  I will now start posting recipes on Thursdays and Sundays.  My #TastyThursday posts will be recipes for pretty much everything – salads, sandwiches, main dishes, sides, and desserts.  My new #ScrumptiousSunday posts will be solely dedicated to those recipes that are so proper for Sundays cooking.  These are dishes, desserts, and meals that might mimic a popular and traditional dish that many of us grew up with (vegan, of course), or a recipe that is so scrumptious, hearty, and carries the worthiness of being a Sunday best.

photo 1I hereby christen #ScrumptiousSunday with one of my all-time favorite recipes:  Sister Kitsiyah’s Macaroni & “Cheese”!   This is one of the most popular dishes at Everlasting Life Cafe (soon to be Woodland’s Vegan Bistro).  For those of you who don’t already know, this is absolutely my favorite place to eat in the entire Washington, DC area.   This award-winning restaurant and their food truck offer the perfect variety of 100% vegan, gluten-free soul food.  Yes…vegan soul food!  Sister Kitsiyah, is a health food nutritionist who studied vegan cooking in Israel with the African Hebrew Israelite Community.  This recipe for macaroni and cheese is from her Food for Life Cookbook.   Many of my non-vegan friends even assert that this Macaroni & “Cheese” recipe is top-notch and some even say its better than their grandmother’s!   The only thing better than its satisyfing taste is the easiness in making it.   Once you make your first batch, be sure to leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think!

  • 16 oz. bag/box of elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of Spike seasoning
  • 1 ½ cups soy milk
  • 1  garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta as directed.  In a blender or food processor, blend the nutritional yeast, Spike seasoning, soy milk, garlic and paprika.  Slowly pour the oil in the food processor while it is running.  The mixture should be creamy, as this will be the “cheese” sauce.

Strain the pasta and run cold water over it.  Be sure to shake all of the excess water out of the pasta.  Put the pasta back in the pot and mix it with about 1 cup of the “cheese” sauce.  Put the cheesy noodles in an oven casserole dish (I use a 7 ½ x 12 inch casserole dish).   Pour the remaining cheese evenly over the noodles.

Sprinkle with paprika and cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let stand for 30 minutes before serving.  May your Sunday be scrumptious and cheesy…in all the good (vegan) ways.   Enjoy!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread – #TastyThursday

photo 4 (5)This is one of many delicious recipes from one of my favorite vegan recipe books, Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.  What I love some much about this recipe is that it’s completely versatile.   Serve it with some marmalade for an amazing brunch or enjoy it warm after dinner with a generous scoop of your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream.

The name “Cinnamon Swirl Bread” is a little deceiving as this is more like a sticky, gooey, old-fashioned cinnamon roll…which is probably why I like it so much!  So be sure to serve it with a fork, and try it with raisins and/or nuts for some added awesomeness!

 

For the Dough

  • 1 cup soymilk, heated to lukewarm
  • 1/4 cup water, heated to lukewarm
  • 1/3 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Swirl

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons nondairy butter, melted

To Make the Dough

photo 1 (11)Combine the soymilk, water and 1 tbs of the sugar in a small bowl.  Stir in the yeast and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles appear.  Add 2 tbs of the oil to the mixture.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, remaining sugar, and salt.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until combined.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and pliable, adding more flour as needed if the dough is too sticky.  This is a dry, stiff dough, but it should still be workable.

Lightly coat a large bowl with the remaining 1/2 tsp oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and gently turn to coat.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.

To Make the Swirl

photo 3 (8)Combine the swirl ingredients into a paste and set aside.

Gently deflate the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes.

Roll the dough into a rectangle 8 inches wide by 24″ long.  Spread the cinnamon paste thinly and evenly onto the dough.   Starting at the short end, tightly roll up the dough.  Cut into 2 separate loaves.  Place the rolled-up dough, seam side down, into an 8×4 inch loaf pan.  Let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the outer crust is golden brown and hard to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Alternative: press down 1/2 cup raisins and/or 1/2 cup chopped pecans into the rolled out dough.

Tasty Thursday – Chocolate Avocado Cake

Rich, dense, & creamy - the perfect cake!

Rich, dense, & creamy – the perfect cake!

I’m sure a few you have one eyebrow raised as you read the name of this recipe with skepticism.   Let me reassure you, this is to die for!

Now don’t get me wrong…this is not a low-calorie cake by any means, but it’s vegan!  And we need to remember that we’re allowed to indulge in the incredibly sweeter things in life, in moderation of course.

The unique thing about this cake is that avocado is not only baked into the chocolate cake itself, but it’s also one of the main ingredients in the rich buttercream frosting as well.  I will tell you that the key to making this cake a success is fully RIPE avocados!   If you’re avocados are not yet ripe, be sure to put them in a paper bag and wait…patience is everything!

For the Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond oil (vegetable oil would work too)
  • 1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed (about 1 medium avocado)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch rounds and set aside.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.  Set that aside too.

Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.  Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.  Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

Pour batter into a greased cake tins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting with avocado buttercream.

For the Avocado Buttercream Frosting

  • 8 ounces of avocado meat (about 2 small to medium, very ripe avocados)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 pound sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and pit the soft avocados.  Again, it’s important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on!  If the avocados have brown spots in the meat, avoid those spots when you scoop the meat into the bowl.

Place the avocado meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment.  Add lemon juice and whisk the avocado on medium speed, until slightly lightened in color and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat.  Add vanilla extract until combined.

Garnish with some fresh fruit, I used strawberries.  If not using right away, store in the refrigerator.  Don’t worry.  It won’t turn brown!

 

 

 

The Top 5 Reasons I Went Vegan

Since I made the transition from a vegetarian diet to a full-fledged vegan lifestyle, I often get a lot of questions (and criticism) about why.   In all honesty, there’s countless reasons I could offer friends, family, and even strangers about why I made this life changing decision.   There are a lot of myths to veganism which I will eventually address in a future post, but today I want to share the top 5 reasons why I went vegan.

1. HEALTH

When I was around 23-years old, my health began to take a turn for the worse.   I began a heavy regimen of medications, visits to specialists, countless tests and medical procedures, etc.  At 25-years old my pulse jumped one evening to 220+ bpm as my heart went into Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).  Paramedics were called on my behalf and I was defibrillated three times while conscious.  Amazingly, that still didn’t correct the problem.   I would go through over two-dozen more episodes of SVT before I underwent a cardiac ablation surgery.   Still, my health worsened.   By 28-years old I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and began taking over 18 prescription medications multiple times a day.   All of this, many other conditions including my chronic back pain left me in a mess.   I was passionately and stubbornly in love with every type of meat, dairy, and seafood…yet veganism was not something that ever crossed my mind.

Finally in 2012, broken and desperate, I decided to try a vegetarian diet.   My world and health began to change almost immediately.   More fascinated on how something so simple could offer so much resolution to my health crisis, I decided to make a major life decision.  I decided to become a vegan.  Since 2012 I have been taken off all cardiac medications, now only taking two blood pressure medications.   I went from injecting two different types of insulin, to only taking an oral diabetes medication, to being taken off ALL diabetes medications.  On September 1, 2013 I will mark 9-months free of any diabetes medications.  I no longer take cholesterol medications.   In fact, my LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, as well as my triglycerides levels couldn’t be more perfect!  SInce going vegetarian (then vegan), I have nearly lost 70 lbs.!   I no longer need to use medicated shampoo for my irritated and often times, painful psoriasis on the back of my scalp.  My concentration and attention to detail is more clear than it has ever been, I didn’t even realize that my brain was living in a fog…I thought that was normal.  This list could literally go on and on, but these are some of the highlights.

2. COMPASSION

I’m an animal lover…always have been and always will be!  Far beyond I can even remember, I was absolutely awestruck, in love, and fascinated by animals.   As I was growing up, my passion, love, and respect for animals only grew…even though I was an omnivore.  I remember coming into contacts with vegetarians (and vegans, as rare as they were) in my high school years and always found their points of view very convincing and eye opening, yet not enough to tear me away from my beloved carne asada, chorizo, beef hamburgers…let alone sushi, lobster, or fresh caught trout (yes, I used to be quite the angler).  But the more I grew, the more I learned.

I began to look into the source of my meats, dairy, seafood, and even my clothing.   What I discovered was horrifying.  Yet I was somehow convinced that going vegetarian (or vegan for that matter) would not change the industry, so I went on with life with a “blind eye”.   Eventually my conscience (and health) started to catch up with me.  As a compulsive seeker of truth, turning a blind eye was becoming more and more difficult to carry out.  Eventually I would have to practically inhale anything that was meat and make sure that I didn’t think about the source while doing so.   This became exhausting, and my conscience started to catch up with me.   As a victim of gun violence and an advocate for gun-control legislation, I have often spoke about how it doesn’t matter how many thousands of innocent children die by gunshots in our country , but the fact that a single child dies by a gunshot….for one is far too many.  I began to equate the same reasoning to the horrors in the inhumane and ungodly treatment of animals we raise for food, milk, and products.

Enough was enough.  I couldn’t deny the truth any longer.   How can I profess my love for animals and my opposition to their abuse, neglect, and murder…yet scarf down a steak?  I was invalidating and contradicting my own personal convictions for ease and convenience.  I was an accessory to mass murder.  Many documentaries such as Food, Inc. and Vegucated helped change my life!

3. ENVIRONMENT

Climate change is no longer a myth.   It’s a fact.   And the data is scary.  Each and every one of us has a moral obligation and responsibility to discuss the global crisis.  The studies and data are bone-chilling and scary.

A recent United Nations report concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.  And the U.N. is not alone in its analysis.  A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.  Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid. And a German study conducted in 2008 concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as a vegan’s diet is.  What most people don’t think about is the resources and energy (as well as pollution) it takes to manufacture meat…from growing feed for the animals, to processing their waste, consumption of water for the animals and growth of their food, pesticides, processing plants, rendering plants, rendering waste…the list goes on.   This is something the meat and dairy industry don’t want you to know.

And for the seafood so many love?   Meet overfishing:

  • 52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
  • 20% are moderately exploited
  • 17% are overexploited
  • 7% are depleted
  • 1% is recovering from depletion

One does not need to be a scientist to comprehend how this affects oceans and ocean life.  And like meat, there is the alarming environmental repercussions which come from seafood manufacturing and processing.

4. NATURAL

There’s no denying that vegan lifestyle is au naturel…if you take the natural way.   I’ll be the first to admit that natural veganism is something you strive for.  As with anything in life, there are a lot of unnatural and unhealthy ways to go about things, and veganism is not an exception.   However, with the right motives and drive, veganism offers a simplicity in being more natural as well as a burning desire to perfect the goal in becoming more natural and whole.   You begin to read every label…and for myself and many vegans, we put the products back on the shelf when we come across ingredients which contain ingredients we can’t pronounce…and of course, anything that is made from animal products (or has been tested on animals) goes back as well.

Learning to go natural is an organic and fresh experience.  It simply makes your soul feel good.   I shy away from overpriced and unhealthy “fake meats.”  Plus, meat just freaks me out, so why would I buy something that looks and tastes like meat.   I have fallen in love with growing our own food and buying from local farmers, makers, and manufacturers who believe and practice the same ethics as I do (or strive to), from people who embrace what this compassionate lifestyle provides us.

One of the many myths is this “diet” is expensive.   This lifestyle is remarkably inexpensive.  To my last calculation, our grocery bill has been cut by close to 65%.  This percentage doesn’t include the endless medication and medical appointment copays.  But it’s not really about the money.   It’s all about the feeling of fulfilment which is nothing less than an incredibly spiritual bond.   It may sound so cliché to spout that I’m a vegan for life, but so be it if it is.  I could never go back.  I would never go back.

IMG_76795. YUMMY

Do you know how many varieties and species of fruits and vegetables grow in the world?   What if I told you there we’re over 7,500 different types of apples alone which grow throughout the world?   And that’s just apples!  The selection of other fruits and vegetables is unthinkable.

Vegan cooking is fun, challenging, and delicious!  Another big myth about being a vegan is that our food is boring, bland, or lacking vital nutrients.   That’s just not true!  And as delicious as fresh fruits & vegetables, the food we eat does go far beyond that!

Vegan chefs took home the trophy at the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational with a nondairy cheese winner, and vegan bakers have dominated the butter-and-egg fest that is Cupcake Wars…twice!  Chloe Coscarelli and Doron Petersan both earned top honors with nondairy creations.   In fact the best Macaroni & Cheese I’ve ever had is made fresh at Washington, DC’s Everlasting Life Cafe, an all vegan and 100% gluten-free soul food restaurant!   Yes…vegan soul food!  Since going vegan, I have been exposed to so many new and different vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods.   Your creativity and imagination are the only limit when it comes to preparing incredibly delicious vegan dishes!

Fig Galette – #TastyThursday

A very simple vegan Fig Galette

A very simple vegan Fig Galette

It’s fig season!

Get figgy with it!

Tis the season to be figgy!

British cookery writer Elizabeth David once said, ““To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean.” 

I love figs!   I love eating fig off the tree!!  I love fig preserves, seared figs, fig pastries, figs in salads, poached figs, and so on.  Here’s one of my favorite and very simple fig recipes!   Bon Appétit!

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
  • 4 Tablespoons ice water
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

For the Filling:

  • 1 1/2 lbs mission figs (tips cut off and discarded quartered)
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

For the crust:  Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter (or your clean hands) cut in the shortening to the mixture until coarse crumbly dough is formed.

In another small bowl, combine the ice water with the vinegar.  Drizzle 1/3 over the water over the flour mixture and stir.  Drizzle another 1/3 over the mixture and stir again.  Drizzle the rest of the water over the dough and form a soft dough ball.   If the mixture hasn’t come together, add another tablespoon of ice water. If it’s too wet, add a tablespoon of flour.  Pat dough into  disc shape.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Let sit in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Roll out dough to a 14-inch diameter round of even thickness. Place on a parchment or lined, rimmed baking dish.

Spread marmalade on the rolled out dough, leaving a 2-inch border along the edges. Arrange the quartered figs in a circular pattern, again leaving a 2-inch border.  Sprinkle sugar over the figs.

Fold the 2-inch bordered edge of the crust over the figs, pleating the crust.

Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…and Elephants too

The life of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey baby elephant.

For many, the idea of a family trip to the circus may be described as fun, adventurous, and entertaining.   For many, a family trip to the circus is a tradition of sorts…something that one grew up doing and has carried on the tradition within their own family.   Fortunately for me, the closest thing I ever saw to a circus when I was growing up was the trapeze acrobats performing at the Las Vegas Circus Circus hotel.  My dad was not fond of the circus, and it wasn’t until I grew up that I finally realized why.  In 2006 a friend of mine had free tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Anaheim Pond in Southern California.   Little did I know this would be my first and last circus that involved animals.   Amidst all the fancy costumes, high-tech lighting, and special effects…were the quite clearly depressed, neglected, and miserable animals being forced to perform for the massive and very loud audience.  We wound up leaving about 40 minutes before the circus ended, as we I just couldn’t sit there and watch what I was witnessing.

After years of abuse, Tyke escaped from a circus, killing her ‘trainer’ before running out the door to get outside, then she was shot to death by police. She was shot nearly 100 times and it took two hours for her to die on the street.

How is this still allowed in the 21st century?   Money.   Money has everything to do with it.  circuses such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (the largest and most profitable show of its kind in history) have a bulk of cash to fight allegations and charges, manipulate the law, and buy their way out of trouble.   They also try to deceive their consumers with such programs as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in hopes that it will take the pressure and eyes off their ongoing abuse toward elephants and other animals used and exploited in their shows.   Fortunately, countless animal rights advocacy groups as well as local & federal law enforcement agencies are cracking down on this ongoing problem, but it will remain a problem until we ban circuses from using and exploiting animals in their revenue making productions.

Here are 15 Reasons to Boycott the Circus provided by Florida Voices for Animals:

1. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses.  Because of continued abuse of circus elephants, there is a pending lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

2. Many people claim that circuses are conservation programs for endangered species (such as the Asian elephant).  However no circus animal has ever been released to the wild and the conservation claim is merely a way to justify the exploitation of animals for profit.

3. Sweden, Austria, Costa Rica, India, Finland and Singapore have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment. However, the US lags behind.

4. Elephants are trained to perform unnatural acts by the use of a “bullhook”, which is a 2-3 foot long club or stick with a sharp metal hook attached to the top.  It is repeatedly used to beat, hit and poke the animals, often leaving permanent scars.  There are numerous undercover videos and testimony from past circus employees corroborating this information.


5. Heavy, metal, and short chains are used to confine circus elephants.  The elephants are chained by one front leg and one back leg, preventing them from laying down.  The chaining of elephants also prevents them from interacting with other elephants, which is a natural behavior for elephants as they are very social creatures.

6. Ringling Brothers typically transport the elephants from city to city by train, chained by one front foot and one back foot and unable to lay down.  They are also kept in cramped conditions for over eight hours without stopping for water.  They are trained for 11 months and the one month they are not being trained, they are still confined in horrid conditions.

7. Elephant transportation vehicles lack climate control and are forced to stand for hours in their own waste.  The are compacted into small spaces for days on end.

8. In the wild, elephants live in large, sociable herds and walk up to 25 miles every day.  In addition to the physical abuse of circus elephants, they are also deprived of their freedom to roam and engage in their instinctual behavior, which includes socializing with other elephants.

 9. Although minimum legal protections are provided in the Animal Welfare Act, the law does not provide adequate protection for circus animals.  Often a veterinarian isn’t even on site and local vets are not knowledgeable about the unique medical needs of exotic animals.  Circuses are frequently cited by the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, for failure to keep veterinary records, for providing moldy or rancid food and no water, for storing chemicals near the animals’ food supply, and for stocking expired medications.

10. Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act.  These circuses are almost always given a slap on the wrist and forced to pay a minimal fine.

11. Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is very difficult because the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcement, only has 100 inspectors to monitor conditions at approximately 12,000 facilities.

12. Although poaching is a problem in Africa, there are wildlife conservation parks that are constantly patrolled to ensure the safety of animals.  Elephant poaching has decreased since the highly enforced ban on the possession and sale of ivory.  In recent years, the elephant population has significantly increased due to conservation efforts.

13. Although circuses claim that they are a form of educating the public about elephants, there is no education in watching the exploitation of elephants that are cruelly trained to perform unnatural acts.  Circuses teach children that it is acceptable to exploit animals.  No research has been shown that attending circuses increases public concern about the status of an endangered species.

14. Elephants in the circus, regardless of how much they are “trained”, are still wild animals capable of and have a history of lashing out, escaping, and thus posing a risk to public safety.

15. Elephants in the circus often carry diseases such as tuberculosis (aka “TB”) and can infect humans with this disease.  Note that there is no cure for this disease in either elephants or humans.

The fact is, animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, jump through rings of fire, or piggy-back each other.  To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.

Please do NOT support any animal circus.  Animal abuse is not entertainment.   Together we can make a difference.   Please visit the following links below for a list if animal-free circuses as well as a petition to demanding action to help ailing elephants.

List of Animal-Free Circuses (PETA) 

Take Action to Help Ailing Elephants (PETA)

Piele Style Mashed Sweet Potatoes – #TastyThursday

The word is a wonderful place, partly due to delicious sweet potatoes!   There’s a gazillion and one ways to prepare them, and mashing them up into thick, creamy goodness is never a bad thing.   The key to good mashed sweet potatoes is remembering we’re not making a sugar loaded, Thanksgiving style sweet potato casserole or soufflé.   With this dish, it’s all about simple…concentrating solely on the tastiness and natural sweetness of the sweet potato.  This three-ingredient dish, known as piele in Hawaii, is fabulously simple. Coconut milk—an occasional indulgence because of the saturated fat—contributes rich flavor.   Be sure to try this simple recipe for your next dinner, picnic, or potluck!   Have a “sweet” Tasty Thursday!

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, (about 3 medium)
  • 3/4 cup “lite” coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.  Microwave on high until tender all the way to the center, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Alternatively, place in a baking dish and bake at 425 F until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour.

When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard skin.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a medium microwaveable bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher.  Add coconut milk, ginger and salt; stir well.  Reheat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Garnish with green onion or basil.  Serve warm.

You can also cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Reheat in the microwave or oven just before serving.

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